I think this should be required reading for everyone who takes a position in the current piracy debate. It's on ym to be read pile. From CultureLab:
You might think that prior to the 20th century, "piracy" only referred to nautical shenanigans. But English stationers in the 17th century labelled colleagues who printed unauthorised versions of other people's work "land-pirats".
Adrian Johns's weighty history fills the years since with quotable anecdotes and lively portraits of wily information thieves who copied everything from telephone network codes to an entire electronics company.
Along the way he assembles a good body of evidence to support the idea that the urge to "borrow" information is a core part of human nature, even if the means of doing so have changed over the years.
Now, Johns sees Google's move to digitise the world's books and the growing open access movement in science publishing as hints that we are on the brink of an intellectual-property revolution. Plus ça change.